There is an obvious, inherent peril in waiting too long or working too hard for a thing: when you finally have it, expectation may make it difficult to appreciate the thing for what it is, and you may be disappointed, even though the thing you receive is precisely what you've waited on and worked for. After watching the first two hours of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars on Sunday night, I have to admit that I was, in fact, disappointed. I'll get to the whys in a sec. However, on Monday night, I watched the first two hours over again and discovered that much of what I'd been unhappy about wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. It was just different from what I'd expected. And, anyway, the second two hours proved to be the delight that I'd hoped for all along.
I'm not trying to write a review here. I just wanted to put down a few thoughts. The story that began with the premiere episode of Farscape, way back in 1998, has finally been brought to a conclusion. In some ways, it's not the conclusion I'd have wished for, but that's neither here nor there. I wasn't the storyteller, so it wasn't for me to dictate the path the story took. What's important is that the story was allowed to finish. There may be more, of course, if the ratings are good and the fans continue to work at it and Henson decides to do another mini or a feature film or a spinoff series or whatever. Regardless, I now have the closure I was looking for. If Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is the very end of the story, that's fine. It is a good and fitting end, and I'm pleased with it. Is it the ending we would have gotten had the Sci-Fi Channel not seen fit to cancel the series? No, clearly not. It's some alternate version of that conclusion, which would have come much more gradually and perhaps would have been significantly different. That's also neither here nor there.
The creators of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars were faced with a very difficult task. In effect, they had to take the story that had already been mapped out for Season Five (and perhaps even parts of a sixth season), a minimum of 22 forty-five minute (or so) episodes and condense it into a four-hour mini-series. I can sympathize. When I was finishing up The Dreaming for DC/Vertigo, I was originally told that the book would run until issue #65, giving me nine issues to complete the story I'd begun with "Souvenirs." But, after I'd written out my plan for the final story arc, after I'd worked out many of the details and it had all been approved by my editors, minds were changed, and I was told the book would finish at #60, which meant I had only four issues in which to finish. I was forced to compact nine issues of story into four. The result was something that felt rushed and thin, something that I'll probably never be happy with.
In many ways, the first two hours of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars felt to me a lot like the last four issues of The Dreaming. It was rushed. The writers were clearly trying to get through many episodes of plot in a very short time. For example, it's easy to imagine the return to Arnesska to find Jool and the temple (first seen in What Was Lost, Season Four) as a two or three part episode, with enough material to easily fill two or three hours, In the mini, it felt like it got about twenty minutes, at most.
Fortunately, the pacing for second two hours was allowed to slow down. The last two hours felt like two really good episodes of Farscape, instead of like fifteen episodes crammed into two hours. I don't blame the writers for the latter. I blame the SFC for cancelling the series in the first frelling place. The battle sequences on the water planet, D'argo's death, the birth of Aeryn's child, and the opening of the wormhole weapon were spectacular and surely rank among the series' finest moments. Looking back at the 88 eps that came before, measuring the mini against them, I'd give the first half of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars a C+ and the second half a solid A (only just missing an A+). In particular, the showdown between John, the Scarrans, and Grayza was beautifully executed. The exchange between Scorpius and John just before John sets the wormhole weapon in motion may have been, for me, even more emotionally charged than D'argo's death ("Happy Birthday. Now get out of my sight."), and the SFX for the wormhole weapon are certainly among the most impressive ever to appear in any TV sf.
And I'm not sure how tense that climax was for others, but I was fairly convinced that, given all he'd been through and all he and those he loved would have had to endure if the Scarran/Peacekeeper conflict continued, John would have certainly let the wormhole weapon devour the galaxy. Very nicely done.
That said, there were a lot of things about Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars that was weird or, well, just plain frelled. It's easier if I do this as a list for this picky stuff:
1. Character design: Some of the characters looked a little different than the last time we saw them (Chi, Jool, and Rygel are good examples), which wasn't all that strange, since the appearances of Farscape characters has generally evolved from season to season. However, some characters were inexplicably rendered all but unrecognizable. Just what the hezamana was up with Sikozu? When I saw the publicity shots of her new look, I just assumed it was something that would be explained. After all, she didn't seem to be truly Kalish, but a biloid synthetic. I'd assumed she'd simply altered her appearance to better fit in with the Peacekeepers. But no explanation is ever offerred, and, worse still, no one in the mini ever questions her radically new look. And sure, Sikozu Mark II looked drad and all, but some sort of explanation was called for. Likewise with Jothee (always one of my least fave Farscape characters, but still...). What happened to Jothee the Luxon/Sebacean half-breed? As far as I could tell, this Jothee was just another Luxon. And what was up with the Scarrans? Perhaps I was particularly sensitized to this by having just watched Sesaon Four over again, but the make-up for both War Minister Acknar and Emperor Staleek was, literally, a pale shadow of its former glory, with much less detail and shading, and their skin having changed, mysteriously, from a gray-brown to a rather vivid blue-gray. This was especially pronounced with Staleek. I suspect a single explanation lies behind most of these questions: a tighter budget. The make-up for Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was done by the same folks who did Season Four, Image Creative Partnership, so it's clearly not an issue of the artists involved being unfamiliar with the characters. Consider, however, the man-hours and money saved by the new Sikozku. Having gone through an extensive and time-consuming make-up myself five times now and knowing that the actors on set are touched up continually, we're talking a very significant financial gain from simplyfying just one character. Same with the Scarrans. Jothee's a different matter, though, and it's possible his half-Sebacean identity was discarded due to time constraints, to avoid having to explain that D'argo's wife had been Sebeacean.
2. If Sikozu was a Scarran spy, why then did she claim to be part of a Kalish underground working to overthrow the Scarrans, then destroy the crystherium matriarch and help Crichton and Co. blow up the Katratzi base at the end of "Hot to Katratzi"? It doesn't make sense. Maybe I missed something, but I don't think so.
3. Chiana tells Stark, when it's all over, that she's going to Hynerium, as she and D'argo had planned before his death. This isn't at all consistent with the character. What about Nerri and the Nebari Resistance?
4. What the frell was the deal with Grayza's pregnancy? Did I miss something else? Originally, I asssumed that she was pregnant by John (from the rape in "What Was Lost"), and that she would attempt to use the child to extract knowledge of wormholes (a precedent for such an odd bit of Lamarckian science was set in "Prayer," when the Scarrans decide to grab Aeryn's baby for this very purpose). However, hardly any mention of her pregancy is made, and in the end the matter is left unresolved. Was it a red herring that didn't quite come off? Will we ever know?
Again, these are quibbles. My overall impression of the mini-series is very favorable, and I suspect it will be even moreso upon further viewing as that annoying expectation effect dilutes. Comments?